Tories call on Boris Johnson to resign as MP to avoid Partygate probe | Boris Johnson
Tory MPs want to strike a deal with Boris Johnson for him to quit Parliament and in return lift the inquiry into whether he misled them over Partygate as the PM’s allies have called it of “witch hunt”.
Although he is due to leave No 10 in less than a month, an investigation by the House of Commons Privileges Committee is still ongoing into the Prime Minister’s initial denials in December last year that all Covid laws are said to have been broken during the lockdown.
Some of Johnson’s critics want him to step down as an MP, to avoid the process keeping the focus on a deeply embarrassing party issue that has strained relations between colleagues.
The inquiry, which is being led by a predominantly Conservative committee that has chosen Labour’s Harriet Harman to chair it, is expected to drag on for months.
A slice of evidence was demanded by the committee, including Johnson’s diaries covering the 12 days in which parties were held at Westminster in defiance of Covid rules, as well as emails, WhatsApp messages, photographs, internal notes and a list of deleted documents.
If Johnson is found to have misled Parliament, he could face a House of Commons suspension and recall petition which, if signed by 10% of his constituents in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, would call a by-election.
Unlike when Tory MPs were whipped to save Owen Paterson, which sparked turmoil within the party’s ranks over foolishness and scandal, some of Johnson’s fiercest Tory opponents have said they will support gladly end Partygate’s investigation if Johnson resigns as MP.
A source said: ‘I think there’s a case – not just for the parliamentary party, but for everyone – that we’re moving on from this psychodrama.’
The “quid pro quo” to support a motion that would end the inquiry would be for Johnson to “get out of the Commons”, they added.
Another Tory MP who helped bring down Johnson said that if the new Prime Minister decides to spare Johnson’s fate by tabling a motion in the Commons to end the inquiry and asking for the support of his colleagues, ” It’s okay”.
“I can see the benefit of being satisfying,” they said. “The overriding political objective has been achieved. It depends on whether our next leader wants to continue this fratricidal war within the Conservative Party or if he simply takes the hit. »
If Johnson resigns as an MP, a by-election would be called. He won the West London seat in 2019 with a majority of just 7,210 votes. As the Tories have not held a lead in the polls since December 2021 and have lost a string of safe Tory seats over the past year, holding Uxbridge and South Ruislip would not be a certainty.
One of Johnson’s closest allies, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, insisted he would stay in politics but suggested the privileges committee investigation be over anyway.
“If this witch hunt continues it will be the most egregious abuse of power seen in Westminster,” she tweeted on Sunday. “It will cast serious doubt not just on the reputation of individual MPs serving on the committee, but on the processes of parliament and democracy itself.”
Dorries also accused the seven MPs behind the inquiry of running a ‘kangaroo court’, and said Johnson was ‘suddenly fired’.
She called on other supporters of the incumbent Prime Minister to unite behind Liz Truss, the Tory leadership favorite.
Asked what Johnson would do next, Dorries told the Sunday Express: ‘Boris will absolutely stay in politics. You won’t get rid of Boris.
Zac Goldsmith, another Johnson ally who was made a peer by the prime minister when he lost his seat in 2019, said the Partygate investigation was “clearly rigged”.
“This is a jury of highly partisan, vengeful and vindictive deputies, almost all of whom have recorded vicious attacks on the person they are trying,” he tweeted. “It’s an obscene abuse of power.”
Tory MP Bill Cash has drafted a motion calling for the inquiry to be dropped, saying it is “useless” given Johnson’s departure from Downing Street in early September.
Chris Bryant, a Labor MP who recused himself from chairing the inquiry after publicly criticizing Johnson, said he was ‘not aware of a single historic case where a privileges inquiry was dropped’ .
“Advocating for him to be dropped shows an extraordinary degree of complicity in Johnson’s misdeeds and a very flippant attitude to standards and truth in Parliament,” he said. “If the government brings a motion to nullify, the Tories will go after the Johnson mast again.”
A spokesman for the privileges committee said the investigation was being conducted properly and denied there had been any change in the rules or terms of reference.
They said a briefing paper on whether Johnson could be found in contempt of parliament had been prepared by a senior clerk, all of whom “are strictly politically impartial”.
They added that the advice was taken by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Ernest Ryder, which was published for the sake of transparency.